Discussion Paper on Use of Social Media by Canadian Judicial Officers
The paper is based on unprecedented survey of Canadian judicial officers with responses from almost 700 participants (approximately 500 in English and 200 in French). The officers included justices of the peace, provincial/territorial judges, provincial and federal tribunal members, Superior Court justices, Court of Appeal justices, Masters and Prothonotaries.
They were asked about their use of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and blogs, organizational policies, perceived security risks, ethics and more:
"Overall, the survey findings were informative. It found that judicial officers responding to the survey use social media at a significantly lower rate than the general population. Those judicial officers who do use social media are relative newcomers, having started only in the past several years. By far, most use of social media by judicial officers is in a personal capacity. Judicial officers visit social media most often to follow contacts, follow the news, find online contacts, follow events and find online multi-media content such as photos and videos. A negligible minority of judicial officers contribute to social media sites in a professional capacity while a small minority contribute to social media sites such as Facebook in a personal capacity."The report includes recommendations that courts, tribunals and organizations involved with judicial officers consider mandatory training programs about social media.
"The survey results indicate a high level of concern about security and privacy amongst judicial officers. In terms of ethics, judicial officers believe that using social media in a personal capacity is more acceptable than engaging in the same activities from a professional standpoint. Judicial officers are unsure about many of the ethical implications of social media use, such as the propriety of professional interactions with social media contacts. In terms of conducting non-legal research through social media, a strong majority of respondents do not do so. Amongst the minority that do, almost half never disclose this information to the parties, a quarter rarely do so and another quarter always or often disclose."
"The survey found a general lack of social media policies for judicial officers in Canadian courts and tribunals and a lack of awareness by chief judges/justices of use of social media by members of their courts/tribunals. We venture to suggest that the concerns and lack of clear understanding about ethical implications noted above, all point to the need for social media policies and education for judicial officers."
The document was drafted by a working group composed of federally - and provincially-appointed judges, tribunal members, academics, and lawyers. Itwas chaired by Justice Fran Kiteley of the Ontario Superior Court who is co-chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Centre for Court Technology.